Connecticut Division 3 Team Previews: JBWA A Challenger; SWGL Looks To Excel In New Division

Jim Clark
Jim Clark
Jim Clark joined Hockey Night in Boston in December 2019, and has covered high school hockey in Massachusetts for more than three decades. He also covers high school hockey and is a multiplatform editor for the Boston Globe, and previously spent two decades as high school hockey reporter at the Boston Herald, where he also served as the high schools editor from 2000-06. Clark was honored by the Mass. State Hockey Coaches Association with its William Stewart Award for contributions to the sport in May 2019, and also received the Joel Perlmutter Award for media coverage in 2006. A graduate of UMass, he also spent eight years as sports editor/reporter at the Sentinel & Enterprise in Fitchburg, and has extensively covered high school hockey in Central and Western Mass. as well as Connecticut.

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It was a big offseason in Connecticut Division 3, as last year’s state champion Lyman Hall/Haddam-Killingworth/Coginchaug (with new coach Dave Sagnella) and No. 1 tournament seed Daniel Hand both bumped up to Division 2. That leaves Sheehan, last year’s state finalist, as the consensus pick to take home the championship. There will be plenty of challengers as well as intrigue, with teams such as Newington picking up new players for the co-op. Wilton, Trinity Catholic and Staples added new coaches.

BROOKFIELD-BETHEL-DANBURY (6-13-1)

Home Rink: Danbury Ice Arena, Brewster Ice Arena

Defense should be the strength of the IceCats with a returning goalie and five veteran defensemen to support him.

The defense will be anchored by juniors Bryce Wallace (Bethel), Brien Merrill (Danbury), Aidan Garvey (Danbury) and Jack Cretacci (Bethel), as well as senior Matthew Riddle (Brookfield).

Louis Alfidi
BBD
Ken Granacker
BBD
Bryce Wallace
BBD

Up front, junior Kyle Boller (Danbury, 6-3-9) is back after playing only 10 games a year ago. Juniors Anthony Britton (Danbury, 4-5-9), Spencer Abrams (Danbury) and Alex Smith (Danbury), seniors Tyler Caldara (Bethel, 3-6-9), Justin Sarrazin (Bethel), Christian Gardecki (Danbury), Matthew Hopcroft (Brookfield), Dylan DeSalvo (Bethel) and Alex Drazul (Bethel) all return.

“Our forwards have the ability to score and will have to contribute to have a successful season,” BBD coach Rusty Granacker said.

The IceCats add sophomore goalie Louis Alfidi (Danbury) and forward/defenseman Kenneth Granacker (Brookfield).

ENFIELD-EAST GRANBY-STAFFORD (3-16-1)

Home Rink: Enfield Twin Rinks

The obvious goal for the Eagles would be to qualify for the Division 3 tournament after missing the postseason a year ago.

Senior forwards Clay Cowee (11-10-21) and Alex Cunningham (7-5-12) will spearhead the forward attack, while senior A.J. Davies (1-0-1) and junior Tyler Provencher (2-2-4) top the defense.

The co-op team adds a pair of key freshmen in forward Logan Humiston and defenseman Joseph Albano.

“Goal scoring will be key. There will be some players that are put into situations that they have not experienced at this level and we hope they will be ready,” Eagles coach Frank Genovese said. “Defense will be our strength.”

HALL-SOUTHINGTON (5-13-2)

Home Rink: Veterans Memorial, West Hartford

Entering his 10th season, Warrior Knights coach Brian Cannon has high hopes for his team to contend in the CCC South and challenge for a spot at Yale in March.

Seniors Christian Mohr and Marco Fusciello of Southington are the key forwards along with Hall senior Mason Woods and juniors Duncan Hollander and Colby Fortuna. Cannon also believes speedy Southington junior Sean Roach will be a big factor in the offense.

Captain Liam Stone (Hall) anchors the defense along with sophomore Cody Brew. Hall junior Noah Behrens-Gould is back in net after a strong season a year ago, backed up by freshman Ethan DelGrego.

Hall-Southington adds several newcomers to the mix this season – seniors Matt Weir and Cam Perez, juniors Jake Beaudoin, James Lynch and Tom Nardi, and sophomores Matt Ganey, Finn McHugh, Zach Pszczolkowski and Austin Pszczolkowski.

“If chemistry clicks this team should make some noise,” Cannon said. “Solid up front, out back and in the net. Scoring should be well distributed. If D zone play is responsible, then the rest should fall into place.”

HOUSATONIC-NORTHWESTERN-WAMOGO-TORRINGTON (6-13-2)

Home Rink: Hotchkiss School

The Mountaineers will be looking to return to the Division 3 playoffs this season with a strong team approach.

Junior John Purdy took over as the starting goalie toward the end of last season and will be between the pipes from the start. In front of him, senior captain Tyler Calhoun is a strong-skating defenseman who will log a lot of minutes.

Coach Dean Diamond will be looking for breakout seasons from senior forwards Luke Mollica (8-10-18) and Anthony Cardello (7-3-10). Chris Swanson, Noah Lynehan and Riley Mollica are among other forwards to watch, along with sophomore newcomers Colin McAuliffe and Sammy Hoyt.

“Our seniors will need to step up their game on offense,” Diamond said. “We need to play smart hockey as a team and not play as individuals. Puck movement will be key.”

Daniel McKiernan
JBWA

JBWA (13-9-0)

Home Rink: Danbury Ice Arena

The co-op team from Joel Barlow, Weston and Abbott Tech figures to be right in the mix of the Division 3 race once again this season.

Providing the offensive spark for coach Robert Stearns will be juniors Daniel McKiernan, Dante Esposito and Ronan Duffy, along with seniors Jake Fones and Dylan Leone.

On the blue line the Knights will turn to senior Evan Baran, and juniors Ted Blanchard and Connor Sweeney.

Sophomore Duncan Craine and Steven Theall are new faces to watch for JBWA.

“The team looks deep and we plan to play a very active game,” Stearns said. “We will have some talent up front.”

MASUK (5-15-1)

Home Rink: Rinks at Shelton

Coach Andrew Sinibaldi has a goal of improving on last year’s record as he enters his second season, but it will be a challenge with 10 new players as part of the core.

Senior forward Kyle Cirillo and junior defenseman Michael Domenichelli are among the returnees for the Panthers, who will work freshmen Colin Deering and Drew Scalia, as well as senior transfers Ross Beck and Andrew Labella into the lineup.

Evan LaGuardia takes over in goal for Masuk.

NORWALK/BRIEN McMAHON (2-17-1)

Home Rink: SoNo Icehouse

Raymond believes last season’s record was not a good reflection of how the team performed – “NorMac” lost seven games by one goal while playing in one of the state’s toughest conferences (FCIAC).

With all but three players back, Raymond hopes that extra year of experience will help the team turn some of those close games in the right direction.

NorMac welcomes back senior defenseman Finn Bean, who missed all of last season and should step right into the No. 1 spot. “We’re excited to have him back,” Raymond said. Bean is joined by senior captain Cooper Gibson as well as sophomore Nat Gibson, whom Raymond calls the backbone of the defense. Sophomore Will Coale should be a valuable addition to the blue line. Senior Max Vitucci is a two-time All-State goalie in Div. 3.

Senior forward Jeb Boyrer (32 points) is a two-year captain, and junior Finn Cullen (28 points) will be an assistant captain. Freshman Hayden Concotta, Stephen Widmer and Bryce Jiminez will add depth at forward.

“Expectations are high for this group,” Raymond said. “We have one of the best goalies in the state, and if we stay healthy it will be a complete turnaround for our program.”

MILFORD CO-OP (4-16-0)

Home Rink: Milford Ice Arena

Despite not making the Division 3 tournament last season, the Indians finished the season with some positive momentum that coach Ken Mitchell hopes carries over into this season.

Milford will rely on senior forwards Matt Gilebbi, Brett Pisani and Rich Carino, as well as senior defenseman Evan White. Sophomores Kevin Wokanovicz and Luca Ubaldi also are back on the blue line.

Connor Chirico and Joey Honcz will be new additions to this year’s roster.

NEW MILFORD (11-11-0)

Home Rink: Canterbury School

The Green Wave need to replace 80 points lost to graduation, including a pair of All-State players who keyed last season’s run to the Division 3 quarterfinals, where they fell to eventual champ Lyman Hall/H-K/Coginchaug.

Seniors Ian Donahue (13 points) and Logan Maciel (7 points) are the top returning forwards, though seniors Sean Donahue (9 points) and Cam Schopfer (8) points also figured into the scoring mix. Sophomore defenseman Steve Sanford and forward Quinn Danvers will play key roles this season.

Coach Scott Capriglione cites his team’s “amazing team chemistry” and an outstanding defensive group as keys to staying in the SCC race this season.

Justin Stergos
Newington Co-op

NEWINGTON CO-OP (17-7-0)

Home Rink: Newington Arena

It’s a new era for Newington, which adds players from Canton to the existing co-op (Berlin, Cromwell, Manchester), giving Canton players the opportunity to play high school hockey for the first time.

The Indians reached the Division 3 semifinals last season, and now will try to take at least another step forward. Back to lead the offense are junior wing Kilian Ranger (Cromwell, 9-13-22), senior wing Nick Deriu (Newington, 6-12-18), junior center Sam Hedlund (Manchester, 6-12-18), junior wing Sam Davies (Newington, 5-11-16), and junior center Joe Petronio (Newington, 0-4-4).

Defensively the Indians will look to senior Justin Stergos (Cromwell, 6-12-18), in front of a pair of goalies in senior Alex DiPaola (Newington, 2.18 GAA) and junior Andrew Fogarty (Manchester, 2.63 GAA).

The Canton newcomers to the program include seniors Chris Brandon (defense), Zach Joerg (wing), and sophomore defensemen Bradeon Humphrey and Carson Humphrey.

“We should be a competitive team at the D3 level, with good team defense and goaltending,” said coach Dave Harackiewicz, in his 27th season. “Need to create offense as we lost a lot of scoring from last year.”

Phil Makris
Newtown

NEWTOWN (9-12-1)

Home Rink: Danbury Arena

The Nighthawks will be entering a rebuilding year after graduating seven seniors and losing three others during the offseason. But coach Paul Esposito said he still expects his small roster to compete for a state title after reaching the Division 3 quarterfinals last season.

Esposito expects the strength of his team to be on defense, led by senior Adam Kliczewski and juniors Phil Makris (12-11-23) and Eli Kirby. Sophomore Markus Paltauf (.881 SP) is in net and Esposito believes he will keep the Nighthawks in games this season.

Senior centers Jack O’Connell (5-5-10) and Jack Stanton (1-1-2) are the top returning forwards along with sophomore wing James Celentano (4-3-7), whom Esposito describes as a “big body, physical,” with a “good net front presence.”

Freshman forward Eddie Faircloth should contribute immediately, and Esposito is excited to see how sophomore John O’Sullivan (6-foot, 185 pounds), a solid stay-at-home defenseman fits in.

NORTHEASTERN (6-14-1)

Home Rink: Bolton Ice Palace

Coach Galen Byram has hopes of getting the Shamrocks to the .500 level this season while competing in a tough CCC South that has three Division 2 programs.

The Shamrocks should have solid team defense led by seniors Jack Terrance (3-3-6) and Mike Riehl (1-3-4), and will add a pair of freshmen in Austin Jonas and Jason Tew.

Senior Joe Chatterton (2-3-5) and juniors Noah Fleming (6-7-13), Kiyan Pourmaleki (7-1-8) and Eric Slater (3-4-7) lead the returning forwards, and sophomore Patrick Frommer will be a key newcomer.

“We should be good in net and on D … we just need to get forwards to bury some pucks this year,” said Byram, who added that belief the team can win games will be critical this season.

The Shamrocks include players from Rockville (host), Bolton, Coventry and RHAM.

Luke Festa
Sheehan

SHEEHAN (17-6-1)

Home Rink: Choate Rosemary Hall

After losing to Lyman Hall/H-K/Coginchaug in last year’s Division 3 final, the Titans seem to be the consensus favorite to win it all to start 2019-20.

Whether that happens remains to be seen, but coach Dave Festa’s team has more than enough talent to make it happen. A potent offense will be led by captains Devin Napoli (20-15-35) and Dayton Allderige – the team’s lone seniors — as well as juniors Anthony Romano (27-37-64), Joe Romano (19-22-41), Luke Festa (19-21-40) and Joey Richo (15-14-29). Junior Brendan Connery and sophomore James Stratton (4-8-12) anchor a solid defense.

If the Titans have any question, it might be in net where freshman Justin Lyon and sophomore Luca Mange are battling for the starting spot.

“Good team defense will be needed this year,” said Festa, who likes his team’s chemistry. “Looking to replace two graduating players from the top 3 lines — it will be a matter of finding the right combinations.”

SHEPAUG-LITCHFIELD-THOMASTON-NONNEWAUG (4-16-0)

Home Rink: Gunnery School

The four-team co-op finds itself having to rebuild its defense as the Spartans look to make a run to the postseason.

With that, coach Michael Gorra will lean on senior goalie Alex Thornburg (Thomaston, .910 SP) to keep the team in games. Junior center Cazden Brenner (Shepaug, 12-16-28) is the top returning forward.

The Spartans also will work in a group of newcomers that includes sophomore center Tyler Moody (Nonnewaug), sophomore defenseman Stanley Ambruso (Shepaug), sophomore wing Connor Ross (Shepaug) and freshman defenseman Andre Gamelin (Shepaug).

“After losing most of the blueliners to graduation, the defense teams coming together will be a key,”
Gorra said. “We have some experienced forwards joining the top lines who will find themselves in key positions from the get-go. Team chemistry will be crucial since we have so many new players in viral roles.”

STAPLES (7-14-0)

Home Rink: Milford Ice Arena

Matt Bohn comes on board as new coach of the Wreckers, and says he will instill a “we, not me” motto for his team. “To be successful this year, we’re really going to have to embrace this idea,” he said. “We lacked scoring and team chemistry last season, so we’re looking for solutions and hoping to be more aggressive in the offensive zone.”

Senior captains Jake Glickman and Alex Goodman lead the returning forwards, with juniors Owen Sherman (alternate captain) and Ben Gault the top returning defensemen. Junior Graham Day will be a key addition in net, along with defenseman Will Richards and forward Nikos Ninios.

“Defensively, we’re even younger, so team D as a unit is going to be essential,” Bohn said.

The Wreckers face the usual uphill battle competing in the tough FCIAC as a Div. 3 team. “But we’re looking forward to competing for a spot in the playoffs,” Bohn said. “These games against D1 and D2 teams really help us to prepare for our state tournament as well.”

SUFFIELD/GRANBY/WINDSOR LOCKS (6-12-2)

Home Rink: Enfield Twin Rinks

SGWL took its lumps a bit last season while missing the tournament, but coach Jake King said the younger players return with more experience and poised for a breakout.

Senior Remington Ferrari (22-18-40) is the top returning scorer, followed closely by senior Tyler Gadzik (11-22-33), and King calls them “elite forwards at the D3 level.” Junior Mason Ferrari (7-5-12) is another returning forward. Senior forward Ryan Corrigan, sophomore forward Dylan Gadzik and sophomore defenseman Aiden Grabowski add to the depth this season.

A big key for SGWL, according to King, will be the play of junior Cam Begley (.900 SP) in net.

“We expect to be high-scoring offense,” King said. “If Begley continues to improve we expect to contend in D3. Need some younger defensemen to step into larger roles as we lost our top two D to graduation.”

Alex Knisley
Tri-Town

TRI-TOWN (12-10-2)

Home Rink: Enfield Twin Rinks

The Terror Cats figure to be a much more battle-tested team this season, as coach Kyle Fijalkowski has scheduled seven Division 2 opponents as they look to improve on last year’s Division 3 quarterfinal finish.

“I think it’ll help the kids be ready to compete day in and day out,” Fijalkowski said.

Tri-Town will generate offense behind the talents of senior wing Alex Knisley (East Windsor, 11-13-24), senior center Sam Teel (Somers, 9-10-19) and senior wing Noah Hale (Ellington, 5-1-6), as well as sophomore wing Liz Vasiliadis (Somers, 2-2-4).

Senior defenseman Nick Dannenfelser (Ellington, 5-18-23) also will be a big part of the offense, and lead the blue line with senior Ryan Bell (East Windsor, 7-7-14) and junior Collin Hall (Ellington, 4-7-11). Sophomore goalie Reave Stafford (Ellington) steps in after getting a pair of starts last season.

Senior center Eddie Lundy (Ellington) and freshmen wings Kyle Provencher (Somers) and Brendan Birmingham (Ellington) will make contributions.

“We have a lot of depth this year so guys are battling for spots,” Fijalkowski said. “It’s going to be about who can produce offensively. We have a solid rotation of defensemen, a defensive-minded team and good goalie returning.

“I think we have a playoff team and one that can compete for a title as long as we’re able to generate offense.”

Jack Kinahan
Trinity Catholic

TRINITY CATHOLIC (5-16-0)

Home Rink: Terry Conners Rink

Pete Pinto takes over as head coach this season for the Crusaders, who will be trying to improve on their win total from last season and return to the Division 3 playoffs.

It won’t be easy, as Pinto has just 10 skaters and a goalie from the outset, with two freshmen and one player new to hockey as part of that mix.

“Conditioning and great team defense are a must, we need to play smart and conserve energy when we can,” Pinto said. “Most importantly, we need to try and stay healthy.”

Senior right wing Jack Kinahan (21-8-29) and center Andrew Ellis (7-9-16) are the top forwards, and junior Emmett Donoghue (3-9-12) is back on defense, where he will be joined by senior Martin Salantay from the CT Junior Rangers Futures. Junior Jeffrey Reda was busy last season, facing 1,016 shots in total and turning aside 913 of them (.899 SP).

WILTON (9-10-1)

Home Rink: Winter Garden Ice Arena, Ridgefield

The Warriors turn to a new head coach, with Mark Mangino taking over the reins of a team that lost in the first round of last year’s Division 3 playoffs.

Mangino will take a defensive approach to this season with seniors Tommy McHugh and Lucas Thelan anchoring the blue line, and junior Owen Petit joining the team from the Jr. Darien Midgets. The Warriors also have a solid returning goaltender in junior Logan Motyka.

Offensively look for senior Tyler Everitt, junior Jackson Kelly, and sophomore Ryan Sorbo to be the key players for the Warriors.

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